Virtual reality video game players experience a temporary compression effect

Virtual reality (VR) was found to have a temporary compression effect. These findings were published in Timing and temporal perception.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, recruited 39 undergraduate students to participate in this study. Participants played a maze game similar to a conventional monitor (VR) maze and a conventional monitor (CM) in which there were 13 timed levels with the goal of rolling a ball into a designated goal space.

Levels increased in size, complexity, and difficulty. Participants were randomized to play the VR or CM game first followed by the opposite version second. During the game, they were asked to press a button every time they perceived the 5 minute pass. After playing both versions of the game, participants were surveyed about their experience.

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Participants had a mean age of 19.5 (standard deviation [SD], 1,7) years and 24 were women.

There was a significant blocking effect, in which the mean interval duration was significantly longer during the second game (341.9 s) compared to the first game (290.1 ​​s; F[1,37], 9.94; Pg = .003). The effect of the initial visualization occurred, in which participants playing the virtual reality game had a longer duration (327.4 s) than the CM (254.8 s; F[1,37], 6.45; Pg = 0.015). Intervals during the first and second sets were correlated (r, 0.62; Pg <.001).

The intervals were significantly longer while playing the VR game (mean, 327.4; SD, 114.0 s) compared to the CM game (mean, 254.8; SD, 95.1 s), which indicates that the intervals while playing the VR version were 72.6 (95% CI, 4.6-140.6) seconds more. The increase in interval time was not associated with differences in maze difficulty (t[37], -0.147; Pg > .5).

There was no evidence of interval variability during the VR game (F[1,37], 0.195; Pg > .5).

More participants indicated that after playing both versions of the game, they felt like they were not in the real world, but in the game world while playing the VR version (t[36], 2,215; Pg = .033).

This study may have been limited by not varying the time interval during the experiment or the short duration of 5 minutes. Previous studies have found that the effects of temporary compression were only evident during longer intervals (30 minutes or more).

The study authors found 28.5% more time spent while playing a VR game compared to a CM game. These findings suggest that players in virtual reality games may have an increased risk of negative effects from games, such as insomnia. However, the time-compressing effects of virtual reality can be beneficial in obscuring time spent on unpleasant tasks, such as long-distance travel.


Mullen G, Davidenko N. Compression of time in virtual reality. Time perception time. Published online May 3, 2021. doi: 10.1163 / 22134468-bja10034.

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